By Christopher Biddle
RUTLAND — Like a lot of college students, Tim Heffernan will spend his summer in the house-painting industry. It’s a good job for someone in his situation. It’s seasonal. It’s outside. It’s good old-fashioned work and real-world experience. However, unlike most college-aged house painters, if all goes well, Heffernan hopes that he won’t ever have to pick up a brush, carry a ladder, or scrape a wall, because he’s a manager for Collegiate Entrepreneurs, a company that pairs earnest jobseeking students with the training necessary to run their own pop-up painting businesses.
Heffernan, 18, of Wallingford, is about to finish his freshman year at the University of Vermont, where he’s already declared a double major in history and economics. On top of his school work, Heffernan has spent much of the academic year training with Collegiate Entrepreneurs, including seminars, job-training and certification classes like lead paint removal. He said that in the past five months, he’s spent all but four of his weekends in preparation for the summer. Whether it’s door-to-door marketing campaigns, compiling estimates, or interviewing potential employees, Heffernan admits that it’s been hard, but he also said that it’s all been worth it.
According to Collegiate Entrepeneur Regional Manager Alexander Arick, a junior at UVM, about 40 percent of students who start out in the program don’t make it all the way through. But with painting weather around the corner, Heffernan has already locked in 12 jobs totaling $30,000. He’s also hired a crew of six painters and has a list of future estimates that he hopes will keep he and his crew busy throughout the summer. One day, Heffernan hopes to work in public service, but he knows the value of a good business experience, he told The Mountain Times.
“I understand that business is one of those things that’s pervasive. It’s a component of everything we do,” Heffernan said. “Having the skills of managing people, being able to interface with customers, being able to conduct sales, be professional, and accessible and accountable — those are the sort of skills that I’m learning already, and I see them transferring into anything that I’m looking to do.”
He said he’s proud of the work he’s done so far, and that even if it seems like all work and no play, it makes him happy. “I don’t know of any job that my friends are looking at that would give the opportunity to be your own boss,” Heffernan said. “In a sense I’m working for someone else as well, but I’m also creating something in and of myself, and I have to be accountable to both my employees and my customers … it seems like such a rare and valuable experience to have this early.”
To some, 18 might seem a young age to be running a business, but it makes sense to Heffernan, whose paternal grandfather, Tom Heffernan, bought a Dairy Queen franchise at the age of 17 and then made a career of managing restaurants.
“We went on vacation, I think in 2012, and it was the first time he’d gone on vacation since his honeymoon,” Heffernan said of his grandfather, who is 83 and lives in New Jersey. He also credited his grandfather, a first generation American, for being the person in his family that lifted them into the middle class.
“I think my grandfather gave my brothers and myself the opportunity to do great things… It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to work hard and to be able to achieve something like this, to eventually say that I ran a business this summer.”
By Christopher Biddle